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Explore Foster Care and Help a Child

Many people make the choice to become foster care parents and open their homes to children in need. Being a foster family can provide a host of benefits. Prospective foster parents should learn what is required before starting the process.

The Administration for Children and Families offers that there are approximately 115,000 children waiting for adoptive families in the United States foster care system. Although the system handles children from birth to age 21, the median age of foster children is 7.5.

Children enter foster care primarily after being removed from birth families due to neglect. Some return to birth families if they are once again deemed competent. Other children become available for adoption if the birth parents’ rights are terminated due to the inability to parent safely.

Many times children in the foster care system have been in neglectful homes or raised in poor conditions. As a result, they may harbor psychological or emotional issues, including trouble trusting adults. Foster care parents will need to be patient and willing to understand a child’s background and situation to make the relationship work.

The ethnicity or race of children awaiting adoption in foster care systems is mixed depending on the state. According to the most recent national report from the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis Reporting System, the majority of children are Caucasian (38 percent), African American (30 percent) or Hispanic (22 percent).

Individuals who decide to become foster parents should realize that they may face difficulties, including emotional issues, stemming from the child’s past. Parents should be willing to work closely with a foster agency on a regular basis. In the event that a birth family will be reconsidered to take back the child, the foster family may have contact with the biological family as well.

Although a person doesn’t have to be married or have prior child-rearing experience, there are some criteria that may have to be met to be a foster parent. Keep in mind that regulations vary from state to state and could be very different outside of the country. A training, screening and licensing process is often required, in addition to these criteria.

Individuals must be 21 years or older. Some states will not accept people who are older than 65.

The foster parents must have the financial ability to provide for their own family.

There must be room for a child in the home. Some programs require a separate room for the foster child or at least his or her own bed and storage space.

The home must meet certain safety standards.

Foster parents must be in good physical and mental health.

To start the foster care process, individuals can request an information packet from the Division of Social Services in their state. It will offer information explaining requirements and the steps to take. Those who are still interested can fill out an application.

If the application is accepted, a social worker will start a home study and background investigation. The process can take several months. At this point, a training course may be recommended.

If the certification and training goes well, a person will become a certified foster parent and an agency will try to find a child that is a good match and can enter the home. The child can stay for several months, some up to a year or more.

Becoming a foster parent can be a rewarding experience for both the parent and the child.  -MNS

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Tags: Featured Story, Infant & Baby

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